Some looked at Tyson Fury on Nov. 28, 2015 and saw a man on top of the world. Fury scored one of the biggest upsets in recent boxing history that night, scoring a convincing decision over the legendary Wladimir Klitschko to become the IBF-WBA-WBO heavyweight champion of the world.
It was an extraordinary achievement, and one Fury had worked toward his entire adult life. Klitschko hadn’t lost in more than 11 years before facing Fury, having won 22 consecutive matches, 16 of them by knockout.
Fury, though, was hardly on top of the world on the night he reached the pinnacle of his professional career. He was about to tumble backward off the cliff, though few other than Fury himself was aware.
What does a man do after reaching a goal he’d worked much of his life to attain? In Fury’s case, it was almost as if he chose to give up on life.
He fell into an incredible downhill spiral of drugs, alcohol and reckless behavior of all sorts. Not long after that glorious night in Dusseldorf, Germany, a leading psychiatrist in the United Kingdom urged Fury’s father, John, not to leave him alone.
He was, she said, an imminent suicide risk.
“She said, ‘He is not to be trusted alone,’” Fury said during a gripping appearance on “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast. “Said I was an imminent death risk, which is the highest level of suicide risk.”
Fury had tried to commit suicide, in ways overt and others covert. He wound up in her office for that very reason, but as she looked at him, Fury knew he was no longer interested in killing himself.
Something he cannot explain prevented him from going ahead with it. He was in a Ferrari he had purchased for himself a few months after he won the title. He felt overcome by his problems and decided to use the car to end his life.
“I felt very, very low at times, very low,” Fury said to Rogan. “I started thinking all these crazy thoughts, this, that and the other. I was in my car. I had bought a brand new Ferrari convertible in the summer of 2016. I was in it and I was on the highway, on this strip of the highway where at the bottom of a five-mile strip there is a massive bridge which crosses the motorway. I knew that, and I got the car up to 190 miles an hour and I was headed toward that bridge.
“I didn’t care what no one was thinking. I didn’t care about hurting my family, my career, people and friends, anybody. I didn’t care. I didn’t care about nothing. I just wanted to die so bad. I gave up on life.”
He was seconds away from following through on his plot when he heard a voice. Don’t do this, the voice told him.
Don’t abandon your kids. Don’t give up on your dreams. There is more to live for.
For some reason, as intent as he had been upon dying, a switch turned and Fury listened to the voice. He struggled to bring the car under control and pulled off on the side of the road.
“Just as I was heading toward that bridge at 190 in this Ferrari — and it would have crushed like a Coke can, by the way, if I had hit it — I heard a voice say, ‘No. Don’t do this, Tyson. Think about your kids. Think about your family and your little boys and girls growing up with no father and everyone saying, ‘You Dad was a weak man. He left you. He took the easy way out because he couldn’t do anything about it,’” Fury said. “Before I turned into the bridge, I pulled onto the motor, and I was shaking. I could feel myself shaking. I pulled over and I was all nervous and I didn’t know what to do. I was frightened. And I was so afraid.
“But that day, I thought, ‘I’ll never ever, ever think about taking my own life ever again.’”
Fury, though, should be noted as a hero because not only did he not take his own life, he found help. He serves as a symbol to those who are troubled, who look at life and see no hope, because he was as low as anyone could be and he found his way back.
Fury told his story to Rogan in gripping detail and the 74 minutes passed as if they were 10. He won the title, had made millions, had a wife and children who loved him and yet he felt empty, alone and hopeless.
“I just didn’t want to live anymore and I had everything a man could want,” Fury said. “There wasn’t anything I didn’t have, but it meant nothing to me.”
His life has changed dramatically yet again, and Fury will fight Deontay Wilder in a Showtime pay-per-view bout on Dec. 1 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. After ballooning to well over 400 pounds, Fury got back into fighting shape and won two tune-up fights.
He found a reason to live, and he was able to turn back the suicidal thoughts. He didn’t take anti-depressants or any kind of clinical treatment.
He’d chased the title at one point with a passion, and when he got it, there was nothing left to chase. But what he realized is that the title was a goal and it motivated him to push through all of life’s down times in pursuit of the ultimate victory.
The turnaround began at Halloween 2017, when he went to a costume party as a 400-pound skeleton. For 18 months, he’d been taking cocaine and drinking and eating to excess. It wasn’t uncommon, he said, for him to drink 18 pints of lager in one sitting.
For some reason, he felt out of place at the costume party and returned home. He walked past his wife and went upstairs to his darkened bedroom. He began to pray.
“[At the party], I said to myself, ‘What am I doing here? Is this what you want for your life?’” Fury said to Rogan. “I thought to myself, ‘This is not me.’ But no matter how many people told me before this where I was going wrong, what I was doing I needed to [change], you can only change your life if you want to change it,” Fury said. “I left and everyone said, ‘You going home early?’ I said, ‘Yeah,’ and I left at 9 o’clock and I went home. I got home and I didn’t say anything to the wife. I went straight upstairs into a dark room.
“I took the stupid skeleton suit off and I got on my knees and I was praying and begging God to help me. To that point, I had never begged or cried to God to help me before. I prayed, a lot, all my life, but I had never been in this physical state before. I could feel tears running down my face. My chest was wet with tears. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own, because it was impossible for me. I had tried and tried and tried and I ended up back in the pub, back drinking. I almost accepted that that was going to be my fate, an alcoholic. So I was on my knees in this bedroom and after praying for about 10 minutes, I got up. I felt the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. For the first time in years, I knew I was going to make a comeback.”
And he did it. He got himself declared medically fit to fight, settled an anti-doping case and set out to lose the 160 pounds he would need to be able to fight.
Fury set small goals of losing 10 or 15 pounds a week, which he could reach. And he set a long-term goal of getting back to the title.
It was a remarkable story, and he’s heroic, win or lose, for the way he has handled himself and provided hope to those who are hanging onto life by a thread.
He’ll become a champion again if he defeats Wilder, and admits he could fall back into the same death spiral that he was in after beating Klitschko.
He won’t allow himself to think of that now, though. Beating Wilder — accomplishing his goal — is all that he will allow to fill his mind.
“I only set one goal at a time and now, I don’t care about anything else but beating Wilder,” Fury said to Rogan. “After beating Wilder, I probably am going to be depressed again. I hope to God I’m not. But I don’t know. You never know. I have [brought myself back from the brink], but you don’t want to look past Deontay Wilder to think about what I’m going to do after that. … I have my goal and that’s what I am focused on, reaching that goal.”
This is a story that easily could have ended tragically. It is now the kind of feel-good story gets turned into a movie.
Fury knows life may still be a struggle.
The one thing he knows now, though, that he didn’t know before is he can control how the story ends. That is the most powerful thing in all of this.
More from Yahoo Sports:
• NFL cheerleader kneels during national anthem
• Firing surprised Browns coach with 3-36-1 record
• Kerr admits Cousins will be 1-and-done with Warriors
• Charles Robinson: Tanking Raiders could be big problem for NFL